Recipe Review

The Unexpected Technique That Makes This Carrot Cake So Good

published Sep 10, 2020
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Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Jocelyn Delk Adams’ wildly popular food blog, Grandbaby Cakes, is one of my favorite places to search for cake recipes. (I mean, the word “cake” is literally in the name!) Her recipes are inspired by her grandmother’s baked goods, which means they’re fun, whimsical, and always delicious. Every time I’ve made one of her recipes it has been a hit — in fact, she recently won our chicken and dumplings battle. When picking recipes to include in our carrot cake recipe showdown, I knew I needed to include hers.

Delk Adams’ recipe includes roasted walnuts, crushed pineapple, and a handful of spices to make a sweet, moist, spice-forward cake. But the thing that really caught my eye was the brown butter cream cheese frosting. (Yep, there’s brown butter in the frosting!) The combination sounded incredible, and I was eager to give it a try.

Get the recipe: Grandbaby Cakes’ Carrot Cake Recipe

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk | Graphics: The Kitchn

How to Make Grandbaby Cake’s Carrot Cake

Grandbaby Cakes’ recipe is a classic rendition of carrot cake with a few clever upgrades. Start by lining three round cake pans with parchment paper and lightly greasing them. In a medium bowl sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and baking soda, then set it aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Add your eggs, one at a time, and beat until fully incorporated. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the flour mixture. Then, fold in grated carrots, crushed pineapple, and roasted walnuts. (The walnuts are noted as optional, but I included them.) Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly, then flip onto a rack to let cool completely.

As the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Keep cooking the butter until it turns brown and smells nutty. Transfer the butter to the fridge and cool until solidified. Once cool, add to the bowl of a stand mixer along with cream cheese and beat until fluffy. Decrease the mixer speed and slowly add confectioners’ sugar. Once incorporated, beat on high, add vanilla extract and salt, and the frosting is done. Assemble the cake by stacking the cooled cake layers with frosting in between, then frosting the entire outside.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Grandbaby Cake’s Carrot Cake Recipe

This carrot cake was hands-down the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. The cake is light and fluffy with a moist crumb that isn’t dense or marshy. The carrot flavor is pronounced without being vegetal and the spices are perfectly balanced and provide a nice warmth. The combination of nutmeg, clove, allspice, and cinnamon was one of the boldest flavor profiles of the cakes I tested, but proved delicious.

But beyond the cake itself, the thing that made this recipe super special was the frosting. The brown butter was a total game-changer. It made the frosting nutty and complex and perfectly complemented the cake. It was so good I don’t think I’ll ever be making cream cheese frosting without browning my butter again. Sure, it takes some time, but it’s totally worth the effort. Overall this cake is pretty much perfect and I will 100% be making it again.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making Grandbaby Cake’s Carrot Cake, a Few Tips

1. Don’t skip the crushed pineapple. Delk Adams’ lists the crushed pineapple as an optional add-in for the cake, but I found it to be one of the things I loved most about this recipe! It kept the cake super moist and added a nice subtle flavor that took the cake to the next level.

2. Make sure you’re using self-rising flour. This recipe relies on self-rising flour to help it rise and give it lift, so make sure you’re not accidentally using all-purpose instead. (If you don’t have self-rising, you can make your own).

3. Add a pinch of salt to the batter. Although the cake is absolutely delicious as is, I recommend adding a pinch of salt to the batter to help bring out some of the flavors. A quarter teaspoon should be plenty.

4. Don’t be afraid to really brown the butter. Browning the butter makes the frosting taste infinitely better than a standard cream cheese frosting. The key is to cook it until the milk solids brown and it becomes very fragrant, so don’t rush it.

Rating: 10/10

Have you ever made Grandbaby Cakes’ carrot cake recipe? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk | Graphics: The Kitchn